Chamber Chat with Wes Johnson
Lancashire’s Trailblazing Chambers and Colleges
Collaboration between Chambers of Commerce and Further Education Colleges are nothing new for us here in Lancaster and District. As Principal and CEO of your College I am proud to have been a Director of your Chamber since 2018, ensuring local employers have direct input into the strategy and direction of local technical education, shaping the workforce of the future.
I’m pleased to report that the Government have also seen the merit in such a collaborative, place-based approach through their Skills Accelerator Pilots. It’s great news that Lancashire is one of only eight areas to be awarded both elements of the Skills Accelerator programme with both a Local Skills Improvement Plan Trailblazer and Strategic Development Funding.
Lancashire’s Chambers of Commerce will lead the Local Skills Improvement Plan Trailblazer. The Chambers will work with employers to prioritise the skills needs of the regions businesses, ensure representation from all sectors and making sure the needs of small, medium and large enterprises are responded to. The resultant Local Skills Improvement Plan will then form the basis of future technical education provision across the county, against which providers will be expected shape their curriculum and offer.
This is a fantastic opportunity to ensure employers are in the driving seat when it comes to local technical education. It’s the model I fundamentally believe in and have implemented across the College when I joined in 2017 – how can a College be deemed relevant to its employers if it doesn’t adapt to meet changing local need, especially important as we all recover from the pandemic, both as a local economy and as a community.
One of the other hats I wear is that of Chair of The Lancashire Colleges, bringing together all of Lancashire’s colleges in a formal collaboration. Through this collaboration the colleges will deliver a range of Strategic Development funded projects, with a cross cutting theme of ‘low carbon, digital and sustainability’. The funded projects will ensure that colleges are best placed to meet the future skills needs of their local employers in a rapidly changing world.